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Accepting Criticism and Feedback Gracefully

Learning to give criticism is simple. Now, learn to accept criticism, no matter who gives it.

By
Stever Robbins,
November 25, 2008
Episode #058

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When I was a kid, the other kids cared. I would walk into the room and they would say things like, “You’re ugly,” and “What are you, some kind of space alien?” Their helpful feedback led me to buy some nose-hair clippers, get a haircut, and spend $60 grand on therapy for my alien abduction issues. My therapist says I’m the first one whose delusions are from the alien point of view. Hmm.

Now I’m sure this has happened to you. Your boss gives helpful feedback. “Your report looks like it was typed by a monkey.” Or “Gee, that outfit makes you look so attractive! … for a change.” It feels … horrible.

Here’s the thing. People take lessons in how to give feedback. You sandwich the criticism between two compliments. It’s a horrible technique. All this “feedback sandwich” does is train people to hear a compliment and wait for the other shoe to drop. This episode’s transcript links to an article on a better way to give feedback.

Giving Feedback Is Only Half the Equation

There are two problems with giving good feedback. First, you go to all that effort, gently give someone the feedback, and they show up the next day with a semiautomatic rifle and take you out. All that effort, wasted!

Plus, psychotically violent employees notwithstanding, giving feedback feels great. It’s receiving that sucks. Today’s tip is to hear criticism however it’s given. Your life will be way better. Trust me.

First, Feel It

Use defensiveness to as your signal. Say you find yourself jumping up and down, clenching your fist, and yelling, “Me? A fake? I knew the whole time your shoes weren't real Prada!" When you’re reduced to insulting footwear, it’s a sign. You’re being defensive.

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